LADY BLUE DEVIL VOLLEYBALL TEAM: YOUNG, QUICK AND DYNAMIC
KCKCC faces four national powers in opening tournament; home opener Aug. 26
By all rights you could call the 2015 volleyball season a rebuilding year at Kansas City Kansas Community.
After all, the Blue Devils lost nine players including two All-Americans and six All-Jayhawk and All-District players from a team that won the District N tournament, finished second in the Jayhawk and placed ninth in the NJCAA national tournament.
But fifth year coach Mary Bruno is not having anything to do with rebuilding talk. "We're a young, eager team," says Bruno, Jayhawk Co-Coach of the Year last season. "Our girls don't consider it a rebuilding year; their goal is to get back to Phoenix for the national tournament. I'm excited about this group, they're fantastic kids. We're smaller than in the past but we're quick and fast and definitely dynamic."
Four sophomores return but only two saw significant playing time last fall – defensive specialist Kimberly Martinez of Guayama, Puerto Rico, and middle blocker Allyssa Lutgen of Lansing. Martinez played in every game last season and will be this year's Libero while Lutgen injured an ankle late in the season, underwent surgery in March and is just now returning to 100 percent.
The other two sophomores also figure prominently in the upcoming season. Cecelia Augustine, a 6-3 middle blocker from Ypsilanti, Mich., showed significant off-season progress and will be in the starting lineup while 5-5 Lexi Nick is locked in a battle for the starting setter position with 5-6 Paola leon of Casguas, P.R.
Four freshmen are contending at outside hitter – 5-6 Brooke Wilson of Osceola, Mo., who can play both front and back row; 5-10 Jessica Minear of Tonganoxie; 5-8 Lilia Thrasher of Liberty North; and 5-7 Adriana Capeles of Dorado, P.R. "All are pretty even. We're waiting for someone to break out of the pack into the starting lineup," says Bruno.
Alexis Harrell, a 5-11 frosh from St. Charles, Mo., and 5-9 Leira Lopez of San German, P.R., are also vying for roles as right side hitter while 5-6 Caitlin Reed of Bonner Springs will be the defensive specialist with help if needed from Thrasher and Wilson.
Ranked No. 15 in the first NJCAA Division II poll of the season, the young Blue Devils will take on four of the premier volleyball programs in the nation in the opening Johnson County Tournament Friday and Saturday. KCKCC will open against No. 12 Kirkwood Friday at 4 p.m. followed by No. 13 Johnson County at 6 p.m. On Saturday at 9 a.m., the Blue Devils will play Lincoln Land and then finish against No. 3 Cowley, the third place finisher in last year's national tournament. The KCKCC home opener will come Wednesday, Aug. 26, against Neosho County in a Jayhawk Conference matchup.
"We've only had one scrimmage so we're still putting the pieces together to find the optimal starting lineup so this tournament will help determine what we need to work on," says Bruno, who is again being assisted by Dee Bruno and Paloma Juarez.